Amid the truly massive writings of Martin Luther there is one volume which is perhaps the most fun to read. It’s the so-called Tischreden – the “Table Talk.”
As the name implies, the volume is a collection of things Luther said at his supper table. Luther hosted children and university students, princes and preachers, peasants and professors at his table. The conversations, as at any family table, ran the gamut – from the funny to the profound. The famous Doctor of Theology talked about religion and politics, about the beer his wife Katie brewed and about the antics of his children, about his love of the gospel and his annoyance with the pope. Sometimes he spoke eloquently. Sometimes he spoke with shocking bluntness. Few subjects were off limits. Meanwhile, his admiring university students sat there taking notes. Chances are, Luther did not intend, any more than you or I would, to have everything he said at the table written down for everyone to read for the next 500 years. Nor did the students always get their notes just right any more than confirmation students always summarize the sermon accurately.
But it’s no wonder that the volume is one of the most interesting to read. As many of us grew up, the most important family discussions often took place around the table. You complained to your parents about a bad day at school or bragged about a three-pointer you made. You told a joke and everyone groaned. Your parents held you captive to your hunger long enough to preach you a sermon or warn you about that kid you were hanging with. If you were fortunate, there was at least a table prayer and maybe even a family devotion, sometimes interrupted by spilled milk. Sometimes you took in your lap the kid who was having a bad day or you argued about the latest hair style or clothing fad.
In a world of endless extra-curriculars, fast-food drive-through and noses glued to smart phones, many homes have lost the concept of table fellowship, of sitting down for a meal together. We become strangers to each other under the same roof. We lose something. We lose a lot.
The visions of Isaiah and Revelation, and the parables of Jesus too, often compare our friendship with God and the joys of heaven to a great banquet, to sitting at the King’s table. It is at the table where we come to know our Lord and each other close up.
Before Jesus goes forth to arrest, trial, crucifixion and resurrection, He sits down for a last supper with the Twelve. There is talk of a Passover lamb full of promise. There is talk of the real Passover Lamb who gives His very self, His body and blood. We lose something – a lot – everything – if we no longer take time to sit with Him at the table of His Word and Sacrament.